If you’re driving on the highway in Virginia, don’t be surprised if you soon see a car in your rear-view mirror with no one behind the wheel.
Virginia announced Monday that it’s opening up 70 miles of highway for self-driving car testing according to a report in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The roads designated for testing will be known as the Virginia Automated Corridors and include some of the most congested stretches of highway in the U.S.
Virginia is the latest U.S. state to allow testing of self-driving cars on public roads after California, Nevada, Florida and Michigan, as well as Washington, D.C.
If you happen to be an automaker interested in testing in Virginia you’ll need to certify the safety of their vehicles with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) on either their Smart Road facility or at Virginia International Raceway before they will be granted permission to test on public roads. Oh, and Google’s steering wheel-free Koala car need not apply, since it’s required that a driver must be in the car to take control if need be (although Google’s other self-driving cars, like the one pictured above, are theoretically welcome).
Virginia is stepping up as a driverless-car testing ground to attract companies to set up shop in the area, which would in turn help its economy. Designers of driverless cars will likely be interested since the new stretch of highway represents and opportunity to test their cars in new conditions, which will help them evolve their products.
As of now, no self-driving car makers have publicly announced plans to start testing in Virginia, but Maya Blanco, director of Automated Vehicle Systems at VTTI, predicts autonomous cars will be on the state’s highways in about a year, according to the Times-Dispatch.